Colin Kaepernick’s Anthem Protest Stirs Day-Long Debate; Spike Lee Says “I Support My Brother”

AP Photo/Ben Margot

UPDATED WITH SUNDAY RESPONSES Spike Lee, Montel Williams and Chuck D were among the celebrities speaking out today both for and against the national anthem sit-down protest staged by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick Friday. Kaepernick says he’ll continue the protest throughout the season. For a sampling of responses, see below.

PREVIOUS San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says he’s ready for the backlash after his refusal to stand for the national anthem out of support for African Americans and other minorities. He’d better be – responses came fast and sometimes furious.

After sitting out the anthem before Friday’s exhibition game in San Francisco against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick told NFL Media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The 49ers responded quickly, releasing the following statement: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

The NFL went more to the point:  “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

The 28-year-old, biracial Kaepernick told NFL Media’s Steve Wyche that he did not seek anyone’s approval before taking the stand – or, rather, the sit – and that “if they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.” The QB’s Twitter page, which frequently takes on civil rights issues and supports Black Lives Matter, is toplined by an Iain Smith quote: “Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.”

He recently retweeted a post supporting Ghostbusters‘ Leslie Jones.

His colleagues didn’t quite agree with his anthem protest, even when they championed his right to say it, like Tiki Barber of CBS Sports Radio:

Here are some other notable reactions…

Sunday’s responses:

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Good Morning. It Seems To Me A lot Of Folks Are Jumping On Colin Kaepernick's Ass About Not Standing Up For The #National Anthem Have Forgotten About Tommie Smith And John Carlos Raising Black Gloved Fists At The 1968 Olympics And Ali's Refusal To Be Inducted Into The U.S. Army For The Vietnam War. These Are The Same Acts Of Protest Black Athletes Should Know Before They Sound Off On Colin. For Whatever It's Worth I Support My Brother. Of The Issues He Raised None Are LIES. Colin Is Demonstrating The Same Courage Of Smith, Carlos And Ali. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF. And Dat's Da Truth,Truth. Spike Lee From Planet Brooklyn.

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